If a staff hurler makes it to the big leagues they have demonstrated a high level of skill and produced quantifiable statistics such as ERA, wins, strikeouts, quality starts or FIP. But which commonly accepted metric designates them as an elite or ace pitcher?
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There are many different ways to define an "ace". He is the best starting pitcher on a pitching staff. "Ace" being a common nickname for the number 1. A team's number 1 starter is often called their ace even if he isn't as dominant as other pitchers. A player that wears the number 1 may be referred to as "Ace" as a nickname regardless of his position.
The term ace is also referred to as a dominant pitcher in the league period. Where he may not be the best pitcher on his staff, but on most others he would be the number 1. A good example of this is the LA Dodgers pitching staff. Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are both seen as aces on the same staff, even though Kershaw was the number 1 starter to being the season and Greinke was the number 2.
As far as seeing a pitcher as dominant, it changes from person to person and team to team. Some teams will value pitchers that throw a lot of innings (200+). Some will value a guy that has many quality starts. With the addition of sabermetrics there are many other ways to quantify a pitcher's value.
The only other thing I'd add is that baseball is very developmental. There is a large minor league system for development. Many pitchers may be valued at a young age because of the potential, but don't end up panning out. Some pitchers may become an ace for a short period of time due to age, injury, or any other factors.